A View From the Chez Lounge-England vs Denmark: A Night to Forget

Posted on June 20, 2024

Familiar Faces, Familiar Failings

So, here we are, game two. England started with the same team that narrowly beat the might of Serbia, while opponents Denmark featured 18 players from their 2020 squad. On the ground where England lost to Russia in Euro 1988—a tournament where they lost all three games and Tony Adams gained his unfortunate donkey status—there was hope that this match couldn’t be worse. But could it?

Early on, the passing was all over the place. Denmark were bad; England were worse and there was no flow to the game. The pitch cut up everywhere and the game was stuttering along as players’ boots acted like ploughs. Perhaps this was a reasonable excuse for an awful start? It couldn’t have helped. Foden showed the first sign of skill but placed the ball over the bar when he should have done better after a sharp turn.

Brief Hope

This spurred England into a brief period of pressure. Great pace from Walker down the right allowed him to steal the march on an unaware Danish defender and cross low and hard. It deflected to Kane, who pounced with a simple well-placed finish. 1-0 England. Would this be the start of something good? Surely England would have learnt from the Serbia game.

Nope. Denmark responded well after the goal. England defended well too, at least until Bellingham failed to shepherd the ball out for a goal kick and an increasingly eager Denmark nearly feasted on the error. Ignoring the warning, England looked ever more vulnerable as the Danes began to dominate. A schoolboy error from an England throw-in led to a flying speculative shot from 30 yards. A much-deserved equaliser on 33 minutes. It was a cracking strike but came from an unforced error you’d expect to see in a Sunday morning Hangovers XI match.

Halftime Respite

England fell apart after the equalizer. Dominated all over the pitch, it became embarrassing. Somehow, they reached halftime level, but it was a miracle they did. On the ropes again against a competent but not world beating team. Deja vu again and again. Why though? I wish I knew.

The second half offered more of the same. England were all over the place. When they did occasionally get the ball, they passed to their teammates like they couldn’t control it, as if they’d just learned to walk. Good teams fizz the ball at each other at pace, England were rolling it no faster than a pensioner playing crown bowls. A Declan Rice effort then bobbled pathetically to the keeper, a metaphor for the overall performance.

A Flicker of Hope

Then, out of the blue, a long ball from Trent caused confusion, and Saka headed into the side netting. A half chance that could have gone in, but Denmark still controlled the tempo. Trent was then taken off on 53 minutes, Southgate’s midfield gamble a miserable failure. Another England square peg rammed into another round hole. England briefly looked better when Foden smacked the post from 25 yards, but the improvement was short-lived.

Gallagher, on for Trent, was shaking things up and getting a yellow card before going in search for a red. Another error let Eriksen in, but he missed when he would so often hit the target. England attempted to counter, but Bellingham tried to do too much too often, then appeared to get lost in a sulk. Three substitutes—Bowen, Watkins, and Eze—came on, but the game remained scrappy. Watkins started to be a bit of a handful, but errors continued, nearly leading to another Denmark goal. England then went from bad, to not completely terrible, to utterly diabolical, but at least the defence held firm and a draw was achieved. Undeserved but a draw all the same.

Pundits’ Post-Match Analysis

Post-match, pundits Gary Lineker, Rio Ferdinand, Thomas Frank, and Micah Richards tried to understand England’s dreadful performance. The common consensus was the midfield being too deep and Harry Kane following them, offering no outlet. Why they do that, no one was quite sure. However, seeing Lineker so furious told you how bad it was. Not the result, the performance. 1-1 against a good side is nothing to be ashamed of but it would have helped if England didn’t look like they’d only met this morning.

The consolation is that somehow, England are in pole position in the group and have another game to try and improve before they have to meet the big boys who might humiliate them. The turnaround needed is colossal, but a subtle shift in team setup could create a spark. It does happen. Many teams have won tournaments after coming alive in the knockout stages. There is another positive. It is with some irony that Guehi was the best player again. The supposed problem area is now looking like the only stable place. England must do much better though, and only a wild optimist would bet on them doing so. But you just never know. Small things make a big difference.

I wondered off to the river for a dog walk with the now ancient words of Trevor Brooking repeating in my head.

”We’re not creative enough, we’re not positive enough”.

Final Verdict: I doubt it’s coming home

MOTM: Marc Guehi again. Who’d have thought it?

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